4 ways 49ers can beat Rams and clinch a playoff berth

Jordan Reed #81 of the San Francisco 49ers is tackled by Troy Reeder #51 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Jordan Reed #81 of the San Francisco 49ers is tackled by Troy Reeder #51 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /
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Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) against the San Francisco 49ers  Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Sunday, Jan. 9. 51. Rams -4. 4:25 p.m. ET. 9-7. 42. Fox. 12-4

It’s simple for the 49ers: beat the Rams and earn a trip to the NFL playoffs. For that to happen, look for the Niners to do these four things in Week 18.

Way back when the 2021 NFL schedule came out, it wasn’t hard to envision a scenario where the Week 18 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams would matter. A lot.

Well, here we are.

From Los Angeles’ perspective, a win in Week 18 guarantees the NFC West crown and the No. 2 seed in the conference entering the postseason. For the Niners, a win ensures a trip into the playoffs as a Wild Card team and the No. 6 overall seed.

If San Francisco loses, however, a postseason berth is anything but guaranteed, as it would take the Atlanta Falcons beating the New Orleans Saints (both playing at the same time as the 49ers and LA) for the Niners to get in.

So, understandably, the best thing for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad to do would simply be to beat the Rams.

San Francisco won big the last time these two teams met back in Week 10. And if the 49ers want to add on to what’s been a five-game win streak, they’ll need to do these four things on Sunday.

No. 4: 49ers must continue Matthew Stafford’s interception streak

One of the key reasons behind the Niners’ Week 10 win was safety Jimmie Ward intercepting quarterback Matthew Stafford twice in that game.

Fortunately for San Francisco, Stafford has been on something of an interception-throwing streak as of late, tossing six interceptions over his last three games combined and even having a three-interception game during LA’s one-score win over the Minnesota Vikings back in Week 16.

Another point of interest is Stafford’s 2.6 interception percentage this year, the highest that number has been since 2013 when he was with the Detroit Lions.

Even though the 49ers haven’t exactly boasted a lofty defensive-interception total this season — just seven through 17 weeks, tied for third fewest — the knowledge Stafford can be prone to tossing picks can hopefully work well in the Niners’ favor.